Reject memorandum, says Waverly bargaining committee

Accepting the memorandum would negate their arbitration award, but rejection may mean closure of the facility

On Sept. 19 HEU members at Waverly of Chilliwack are voting on rejection or acceptance of a memorandum their employer wants to impose over a binding arbitration award.

Acceptance of the memorandum would effectively negate the award, and the local’s bargaining committee is recommending rejection. It is a difficult choice for these members, because the owner clearly states in the memorandum that the facility will close if they do not vote to accept it.

Fifty-two employees at Waverly of Chilliwack, a private, intermediate, multi-level health care facility, were elated to learn in early July that arbitrator Vince Ready had handed down binding arbitration on June 26, awarding them substantial salary and benefit increases. This followed 18 months of contentious bargaining with an employer that did not want to give an inch and four years of zero salary increases.

The elation was soon followed by the realization that this employer had no intention of complying with the new collective agreement that these members had worked so hard to obtain. He refused to implement salary and benefit increases, and rumours circulated that Waverly was going to close, forcing HEU members out of work and the more than 50 seniors out of their residences.

On Sept. 5 Waverly’s management finally sent a proposed memorandum to the bargaining committee to present to the membership for a vote. After reading the document they determined they could not in good consciousness recommend acceptance.

The employer proposes two options on wages and benefits. One is to tie benefits to the level of funded beds. For example, if they are successful in obtaining funding for 50 per cent of the beds, the employees will receive 50 per cent of the benefits awarded by Ready.

“This is clearly not acceptable,” says Chris Allnutt, HEU’s secretary-business manager. “Ready made this award based on the current economic situation of this employer. If the level of funded beds were to rise, the union would be seeking the industry rates and benefits, which are superior to the award.”

The employer couples this option with implementation of pay raises starting in Oct. 2000 instead of the award’s June 26 date.

The other option the employer offers is profit sharing. “This is too unreliable to offer to a unionized workforce,” says Allnutt. “Many factors can affect a profit margin, and the information is all controlled by the employer. More importantly, this option puts pressure on HEU members to compromise quality care to increase the employer’s profits.”

The term of the memorandum is the same as Ready’s, tying the members into an inferior contract for five years.

Waverly’s bargaining committee feels very strongly that this proposal is not in the best interests of its members nor of the facility’s residents